ELON MUSK UN­VEILS UN­DER­GROUND TUN­NEL, OF­FERS RIDES TO VIPS

Apple Magazine - - Summary -

Elon Musk un­veiled his un­der­ground trans­porta­tion tun­nel, al­low­ing re­porters and in­vited guests to take some of the first rides in the rev­o­lu­tion­ary al­beit bumpy sub­ter­ranean tube — the tech en­tre­pre­neur’s an­swer to what he calls “soul-de­stroy­ing traf­fic.”

Guests boarded Musk’s Tesla Model S and rode along Los An­ge­les-area sur­face streets about a mile away to what’s known as O’Leary Sta­tion. The sta­tion, smack dab in the mid­dle of a res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hood — “ba­si­cally in some­one’s back­yard,” Musk says — con­sists of a wall-less el­e­va­tor that slowly took the car down a wide shaft, roughly 30 feet (9 me­ters) be­low the sur­face.

The sky slowly fell away and the sur­pris­ingly nar­row tun­nel emerged.

“We’re clear,” said the driver, who sped up and zipped into the tun­nel when a red track light turned green, mak­ing the tube look like some­thing from space or a dance club.

The car jos­tled sig­nif­i­cantly dur­ing the ride, which was bumpy enough to give one re­porter mo­tion sick­ness while an­other yelled, “Woo!”

Musk de­scribed his first ride as “epic.”

“For me it was a eureka mo­ment,” he told a room full of re­porters. “I was like, ‘This thing is go­ing to damn well work.’”

He said the rides are bumpy now be­cause “we kind of ran out of time” and there were some prob­lems with the speed of his paving ma­chine.

“It’ll be smooth as glass,” he said of fu­ture sys­tems. “This is just a pro­to­type. That’s why it’s a lit­tle rough around the edges.”

Later in the day, Musk emerged from the tun­nel him­self in­side one of his cars. He high-fived guests and pumped his fists in the air be­fore de­liv­er­ing a speech in the green glow of the tun­nel about the tech­nol­ogy and why it makes sense.

“Traf­fic is soul-de­stroy­ing. It’s like acid on the soul,” he said to guests who snacked on marsh­mal­low treats and hot dogs and hoped for a turn in the tun­nel.

He ex­plained for the first time in de­tail how the sys­tem, which he sim­ply calls “loop,” could work on a larger scale be­neath cities across the globe. Au­ton­o­mous, elec­tric ve­hi­cles could be low­ered into the sys­tem on wall-less el­e­va­tors, which could be placed al­most any­where cars can go.

Elon Musk un­veiled his un­der­ground trans­porta­tion tun­nel plans for Los An­ge­les. He says miles of tun­nels could be dug be­neath Los An­ge­les, so that au­ton­o­mous, elec­tric ve­hi­cles could travel around the city and ease traf­fic.

The cars would have to be fit­ted with spe­cial­ly­de­signed side wheels that pop out per­pen­dic­u­lar to the car’s reg­u­lar tires and run along the tun­nel’s track. The cost for such wheels would be about $200 or $300 a car, Musk said.

A num­ber of au­ton­o­mous cars would re­main in­side the tun­nel sys­tem just for pedes­tri­ans and bi­cy­clists. Once on the main ar­ter­ies of the sys­tem, ev­ery car could run at top speed ex­cept when en­ter­ing and ex­it­ing.

“It’s much more like an un­der­ground high­way than it is a sub­way,” Musk said.

The cars would have to be au­ton­o­mous to work in the sys­tem but not Tes­las specif­i­cally, and they would have to be elec­tric be­cause of the fumes from gas, Musk said.

The demo rides were con­sid­er­ably slower — 40 mph (64 kph) — than what Musk says the fu­ture sys­tem will run at: 150 mph (241 kph). Still, it took only three min­utes to go just over a mile from the be­gin­ning to the end of the tun­nel, the same amount of time it took to ac­com­plish a right-hand turn out of the park­ing lot and onto a sur­face street even be­fore the height of Los An­ge­les’ no­to­ri­ous rush-hour traf­fic.

Tues­day’s re­veal comes al­most two years to the day since Musk an­nounced on Twit­ter that “traf­fic is driv­ing me nuts” and he was “go­ing to build a tun­nel bor­ing ma­chine and just start dig­ging.”

“I am ac­tu­ally go­ing to do this,” he added in re­sponse to ini­tial skep­ti­cism. Soon af­ter, he be­gan The Bor­ing Com­pany, tongue in cheek in­ten­tional.

A mod­i­fied Tesla Model X rests on an el­e­va­tor, right, above the pit and tun­nel en­trance be­fore an un­veil­ing event for the Bor­ing Com­pany Hawthorne test tun­nel in Hawthorne.

For the pri­vately funded test tun­nel, Musk ac­quired a tun­nel-bor­ing ma­chine that had been used in a San Fran­cisco Bay Area project and put it down a shaft in a park­ing lot at the SpaceX head­quar­ters.

Musk dis­missed con­cerns such as the noise and dis­rup­tion of build­ing the tun­nels, say­ing that when work­ers bored through the end of the test tun­nel the peo­ple in the home 20 feet (6 me­ters) away “didn’t even stop watch­ing TV.”

“The foot­steps of some­one walk­ing past your house will be more no­tice­able than a tun­nel be­ing dug un­der your house,” he said.”

The Bor­ing Com­pany can­celed its plans for an­other test tun­nel on Los An­ge­les’ west side last month af­ter a neigh­bor­hood coali­tion filed a law­suit ex­press­ing con­cerns about traf­fic and dis­rup­tions from trucks haul­ing out dirt dur­ing the bor­ing process.

How­ever, Steve Davis, head of The Bor­ing Com­pany, said the in­ter­est in the tun­nel sys­tems has been sig­nif­i­cant — any­where from five to 20 calls a week from var­i­ous mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and stake­hold­ers.

One project Musk is plan­ning on, known as the Dugout Loop, would take Los An­ge­les base­ball fans to Dodger Sta­dium from one of three sub­way sta­tions. An­other would take trav­el­ers from down­town Chicago to O’Hare In­ter­na­tional Air­port. Both projects are in the en­vi­ron­men­tal re­view phase.

Musk said he thinks the Chicago project has the most po­ten­tial to open soon­est and that he’s hop­ing an ex­ten­sive net­work opens in Los An­ge­les be­fore the city hosts the 2028 Olympics.

The “linestorm” sec­ond gen­er­a­tion tun­nel bor­ing equip­ment is dis­played be­fore an un­veil­ing event.

“Wouldn’t it be in­cred­i­ble if you could travel around LA, New York, D.C., Chicago, Paris, Lon­don — any­where — at 150 mph?” Musk said. “That’d be phe­nom­e­nal.”

Musk’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives also un­veiled on Tues­day a new tun­nel-bor­ing ma­chine they say they hope to have on­line soon, one that can bore four times faster than the one they’ve been us­ing.

Musk said it took about $10 mil­lion to build the test tun­nel, a far cry from the $1 bil­lion per mile his com­pany says most tun­nels take to build.

Cost-cut­ting mea­sures in­cluded im­prov­ing the speed of con­struc­tion with smarter tools, elim­i­nat­ing mid­dle­men, build­ing more pow­er­ful bor­ing ma­chines, and turn­ing the dirt be­ing ex­ca­vated into bricks and sell­ing them, Musk said.

The tun­nel will not be open to the pub­lic for the fore­see­able fu­ture, Musk said, adding that reg­u­la­tions wouldn’t al­low for it to open widely for demo rides just yet.

Musk’s vi­sion for the un­der­ground tun­nels is not the same as an­other of his trans­porta­tion con­cepts known as hy­per­loop. That would in­volve a net­work of nearly air­less tubes that would speed spe­cial cap­sules over long dis­tances at up to 750 mph (1,200 kph), us­ing a thin cush­ion of air, mag­netism and so­lar power.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.